15 October 2008

Cui Bono?

[No, not that Bono.] Today, we aggregate:
  • The Washington Post brings the war crimes evidence closer to the source:  "The Bush administration issued a pair of secret memos to the CIA in 2003 and 2004 that explicitly endorsed the agency's use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding against al-Qaeda suspects -- documents prompted by worries among intelligence officials about a possible backlash if details of the program became public."

  • Cui bono:  Joseph E. Stiglitz, whose article on the true costs of the American wars we've previously mentioned, has a new article in the most recent Vanity Fair entitled "Reversal of Fortune":  "Ideology proclaimed that markets were always good and government always bad. While George W. Bush has done as much as he can to ensure that government lives up to that reputation—it is the one area where he has overperformed—the fact is that key problems facing our society cannot be addressed without an effective government, whether it’s maintaining national security or protecting the environment. Our economy rests on public investments in technology, such as the Internet. While Bush’s ideology led him to underestimate the importance of government, it also led him to underestimate the limitations of markets. We learned from the Depression that markets are not self-adjusting—at least, not in a time frame that matters to living people. Today everyone—even the president—accepts the need for macro-economic policy, for government to try to maintain the economy at near-full employment. But in a sleight of hand, free-market economists promoted the idea that, once the economy was restored to full employment, markets would always allocate resources efficiently. The best regulation, in their view, was no regulation at all, and if that didn’t sell, then “self-regulation” was almost as good."

  • Another call for perhaps a new Bretton Woods-type regime: "Financial liberalisation [that is, freeing the markets as much as possible from government regulation] has effects well beyond the economy. It has long been understood that it is a powerful weapon against democracy. Free capital movement creates what some have called a "virtual parliament" of investors and lenders, who closely monitor government programmes and "vote" against them if they are considered irrational: for the benefit of people, rather than concentrated private power.

    Investors and lenders can "vote" by capital flight, attacks on currencies and other devices offered by financial liberalisation. That is one reason why the Bretton Woods system established by the United States and Britain after the second World War instituted capital controls and regulated currencies.

    ...in the neoliberal phase after the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system in the 1970s, the US treasury now regards free capital mobility as a "fundamental right", unlike such alleged "rights" as those guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: health, education, decent employment, security and other rights that the Reagan and Bush administrations have dismissed as "letters to Santa Claus", "preposterous", mere "myths"."  [Never forget that after the devastation he'd wrought in U.S. foreign policy, Paul Wolfowitz was appointed by Pres.* Bush to head of the World Bank.  Gives one pause in the context of the current crisis, does it not?]

  • Now for something completely different (or is it?):  James Wood in his current New Yorker article, "Verbage:  The Republican War on Words," hits on a topic we raised in an earlier post: "In recent elections, the Republican hate word has been “liberal,” or “Massachusetts,” or “Gore.” In this election, it has increasingly been “words.” Barack Obama has been denounced again and again as a privileged wordsmith, a man of mere words who has “authored” two books (to use Sarah Palin’s verb), and done little else. The leathery extremist Phyllis Schlafly had this to say, at the Republican Convention, about Palin: “I like her because she’s a woman who’s worked with her hands, which Barack Obama never did, he was just an élitist who worked with words.” The fresher-faced extremist Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator, called Obama “just a person of words,” adding, “Words are everything to him.” The once bipartisan campaign adviser Dick Morris and his wife and co-writer, Eileen McGann, argue that the McCain camp, in true Rovian fashion, is “using the Democrat’s articulateness against him” (along with his education, his popularity, his intelligence, his wife—pretty much everything but his height, though it may come to that)."

    [When a candidate runs a campaign based on the principle that government is part of the problem, not part of the solution (that would be GW Bush), then when that administration proves incompetent (Afghanistan, Iraq, Katrina, Wall Street, the economy, etc., etc.) we shouldn't be surprised. So, when a candidate runs a campaign attacking the media "filter" and the articulation of policy positions, we should expect an administration that governs more by fiat than consensus (as Bush has, as well. But, as Wood points out, we've hit new highs (or lows, as it were) here.). If they lie about what they're doing in the campaign, then they'll lie about what they're doing once they're in power.]

  • James Wood and I, along with our provocative host Dan Green and whole host of others, got into a wrangle about Dostoevsky over at The Reading Experience. Dan started it off with this little nugget: "Dostoevsky is, in my opinion, such a terrible writer. He's a religious dogmatist and a reactionary conservative who uses fiction as, in Wilson's words, "demonstrations of the areas which have to be explored if one is to make sense of any of the great questions of philosophical theology." Unsurprisingly, most of Dostevsky's novels tell us that, once we've "explored" these areas, we would be well advised to become. . .religious dogmatists and reactionary conservatives." And a storm of comment ensued. Check it out. BTW: Here's the article that got Dan going in the first place.

That's enough for now. There's so much more.

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